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Due to a conversation I had with a friend recently, I did a little research into presidential vacationing. I found this link which enumerates the amount of vacation taken by the last four presidents. Let’s pretend an average person gets 2 weeks of vacation per year (probably more like 1 week, but let’s be generous). So, pre-supposing weekends are off, and that there are 56 weeks in a year, that’s 280 work days in a year. Two weeks off is 10 of those days, for a total of about 3.5% of the year that a person gets as a vacation. Update (9/14/04): As Jeff points out, I had a brain-fart on the number of weeks in a year. There are 52 weeks in a year, which makes it 260 work days in a year. Two weeks off, or 10 days, is approximately 3.85% of the year. Alternatively, if you view weekends as vacation time, that’s two times a week, or 104 days, plus 10 extra days of vacation, that’s 114 days of vacation, or about 31.2% of the year. Now, to compare with the presidents…

Let’s start with Jimmy Carter. Carter was President for a single 4-year term. Over those 4 years, he took 79 days of vacation. Assuming he didn’t get any weekends off, that’s 5.4% of the time that he was on vacation. Not too bad, all things considered. He was the most powerful man in the world, but he basically took about 20 days off per year—about 3 weeks.

Next up: Ronald Reagan. Reagan was President for 8 years, and took 335 days of vacation during that time. Doing quick math, that’s almost 365 days, which means it’s almost a YEAR of vacation, which means he was on vacation almost 1/8th of the time. Doing more math, to be more precise, that’s 11.4% of the time that he was on vacation—twice as much as Carter.

Next up: George Herbert Walker Bush (Bush Sr.). Bush Sr. was President for 4 years, and took 543 days of vacation time. 543. Five hundred fourty three days of vacation. That’s a year and a half! Out of FOUR! That’s 37% of the time! He was on vacation more than one out of every three days. He got paid for four years of work, but only worked two and a half of them. Put another way, every year, he took more than four months of vacation. Yowza.

Next up: William Clinton. Clinton was President for 8 years, and during that time took 152 days of vacation. As a percentage, that’s approximately 5.2% of the time—even less than Carter.

Next up: George Walker Bush Jr. Bush Jr. has been president for less than 4 years so far. As of August 2003 (with a year and a half remaining in his (first) term), he had been on vacation 250 days, or approximately 27% of the time. That means every year he’s only taken three months of vacation, on average. Compared to his father, he’s a workaholic!

Not so fast, says Fred Kaplan, staff writer for Slate Magazine. Prior to September 11, 2001, George W. Bush was on vacation for 96 days. Given that he’d taken office on January 20th of 2001, that means that as of September 11th, he’d been “on the job” for 234 days. If 96 of those were vacation days, he was on vacation 41% of the time. Apparently he got guff for that, and has since been taking less vacation, bringing his average down to a measly 27% almost two years later by taking a mere 154 more days of vacation, which, giving him the benefit of the doubt, means he averaged only to be on vacation 21% of the time after September 11th (as of August 2003).

But let’s not depend on a single source… It seems The Washington Post has been doing some counting too, and they disagree with Doug Griffin of Counterbias. As of April 2004, Bush spent 233 days at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Add to that his 78 visits to Camp David and 5 visits to Kennebunkport, Maine gives you a grand total of more than 500 days on vacation at one of Bush’s usual retreats. That’s a lot! That’s more than 40% of his time STILL on vacation!

Conveniently, Yahoo has an Ask Yahoo feature that has answered the following question: How many vacation days has George W. Bush taken to date as President? How does that compare with Clinton? They come up with similar figures (and they cite the Washington Post).

Back in 2001, the San Jose Mercury News newspaper commented on it as well, with an article titled Bush Break Longest in a Generation commenting that Bush’s 30+ days of vacation during August 2001 was the longest vacation since Nixon in 1969.

But this sounds like a bunch of liberal whining, doesn’t it? I mean, don’t presidents get weekends off? 42% has gotta be misleading, doesn’t it? And in fact a couple people attempt to “debunk” this number. The way to debunk these numbers is to point out that these numbers include weekends and federal holidays, and that these so-called “vacations” were working vacations, where Bush met with foreign leaders and went out to “listen to the people”.

Unfortunately for such debunkers, as it turns out, United States Presidents do not get weekends off. Presidents are at work more than United States Postal Service workers (some of them at least get Sunday off). Or at least, they’re supposed to be. And “listening to the people” turns out to be little more than in-office campaigning with taxpayer money—Bush gave a bunch of speeches to various Republican rallies during his “vacations” … which may not qualify as vacation exactly, but certainly can’t be construed as doing his job as president or working “for the people.” And in any case, when compared to the vacation days of the recent Democratic presidents (which might include weekends and “working” vacations as well) it still is not a very complimentary picture.

(Note: I am not addressing the accusations of some that this vacationing that Bush undertook affected his performance, particularly with regards to information about terrorist activity with an eye towards preventing what happened on September 11th. Bush was briefed, a little bit, while he was on vacation (note: this is not working, this is equivalent to watching the nightly news, where the nightly news happens to be classified), so it seems to have been a bigger, more systematic problem than strictly “Bush’s fault”. That said… by the time September 11th rolled around HE WAS ON VACATION NEARLY HALF OF THE TIME. Get over your damn selves.)


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One thing is sure when it comes to George W. Bush... he loves his vacation. It was brought up in Fahrenheit 9/11 but I never realized how much vacation Bush takes. Not only was he on vacation during times of constant threats from terrorists, he is a... [Read More]

Comments (1)


I found it hard to take you too seriously after you somehow managed to add an extra month to the calander in your first paragraph. 52 weeks in a year equals 260 weekdays. 3.85%. Statistically small... credibility, ouch!

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